Review Summary: A defiant, resolute and, most importantly, passionate middle finger to their doubters.
Following the effectiveness of lengthy high-octane openers on their previous two albums, it initially seems strange that Welsh sextet Lostprophets would kick off their fourth LP ‘The Betrayed’ with a two minute introductory piece. Initially under-whelming in isolation, ‘If It Wasn’t for Hate, We’d Be Dead by Now’ is unquestionably a statement of intent and a message to the naysayers… As is the defiant following line of “if it wasn’t for truth, we’d have taken our bow”. You cannot help but get the feeling that when Ian Watkins belts out “It’s Not the End of the World, But I Can See it from Here" on the album’s fantastic lead single, his world is his musical career. He even suggests it on penultimate track ‘Darkest Blue’ where he proclaims “I’m weightless without sound”.
So what has happened in the past half-decade to bring on such a tenacious and unyielding determination that suggests ‘The Betrayed’ is approaching a make-or-break release" The divisive ‘Liberation Transmission’ - which was criticized for its slickness and leaning towards mainstream accessible pop-rock – was only the beginning. In recording its follow-up, the band scrapped a number of recordings, as well as switching producers and record labels. After such adversity, it would not have surprised had ‘The Betrayed’ never seen the light of day. Yet, here it is, an accomplished middle finger to all of the band’s doubters.
Tellingly, fans of Lostprophets’ earlier releases should be pleased with the metallic traits exhibited by the energetic pseudo-opener ‘Dstryr/Dtsryr’, as the defiance theme continues with the line “every time you think you’ve stopped us, we’ll rise up stronger from the dust”, before Watkins emphatically screams ”Turn around motherf**ker, coz we ain’t done”. Later, ‘Next Stop, Atro City’ may not be as convincing, but its fun, rapid-fire approach is certain to win most over and undoubtedly be a live favorite. Another characteristic which resurfaces here are the instrumental song-end interludes which add variety and cohesiveness. As polarizing as these can be, they are not significantly harmful at approximately four minutes in total.
‘The Betrayed’ is by no means a complete return back to debut ‘The Fake Sound of Progress’ however, and what ultimately made second LP ‘Start Something’ a winner - its ability to find that near-perfect balance of everything to appeal to as wide an audience as possible – returns here. ‘Liberation Transmission’ clearly put vocals at the forefront, but musicianship is thankfully back on the agenda, as crunching guitar riffs and propulsive drumming shine throughout. Yet, the Welshmen (plus their now departed American drummer Ilan Rubin) have far from lost their mainstream sensibilities and nowhere can this be heard more than on the aforementioned lead single, which is a trademark anthemic sing-along of the highest quality.
Detractors will undoubtedly point to the The Betrayed’s occasional want to stray a little too far towards Liberation Transmission like mainstream poppiness. Uplifting second single ‘Where We Belong’ is one such example, yet its euphoric sing-along chorus provides a nice counter-balance to the album’s darker themes. Both this track and the infectious ‘Streets of Nowhere’ also highlight the terrific backing vocals contained within the band. Even these poppier cuts exhibit diversity on further listens. Take, for instance, the verging on ska vibe of the interesting ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Felon’ and the soaring guitars of ‘A Better Nothing’, which remind of ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ era U2.
And just when you think that Lostprophets have run out of tricks, along comes the epic ‘The Light That Shines Twice as Bright’. Both a fitting and telling way to bring the album to a close, it is a moody and methodically paced piece which displays controlled atmospherics hitherto unseen from the band… So much so that it is likely to be labeled as “the best thing they have ever recorded” by those after something much more left of center.
Adjectives such as “defiant”, “resolute”, “bitter” and “dark” are likely to be the most prevalent in describing this album, but quite possibly the most apt and all encompassing is “passionate”. While the direction of combining the positive attributes of all three of their prior releases may have been predictable, the delivery was not. It is flawed, as in trying to please all of their fans, they occasionally reach for too many targets. However, it is delivered with such a passion for their craft that makes it a winner when all is said and done. It is fitting then that what is likely to be the most divisive song of the LP delivers the lyric which best sums up ‘The Betrayed’; “Hold on hold on, where we belong, my heart my soul, we still belong”. They’re darn right they still belong, since Lostprophets have delivered an excellent album that is a reminder to all and sundry that this is a band with not only a storied past, but also a very bright future.
Recommended Tracks: It’s Not the End of the World But I Can See it from Here, Where We Belong, A Better Nothing & The Light That Shines Twice as Bright.